Religious Leaders Encourage Prayer and Fasting

Mar 12, 2003 11:54 AM EST

WASHINGTON – Twelve influential Christian leaders called for prayer and fasting from the faithful that the war against Iraq may be averted or shortened. Although many of the signers believed a conflict with Iraq would be justified, they said in the open letter presented on Ash Wednesday that "no one wants to go to war."

"Fasting and prayer are the Christian response to this perilous hour," they said. "God in His providence may yet spare us from war. We must ask him to intervene. Pray that, by God's mercy, there will be no reason to go to war. Pray for wisdom for our leaders and for God's mercy on Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi people."

The signatories asked for Christians and churches of all traditions to pray so that if war does occur, "it will be short and that God will spare civilians. Pray too for the protection of those in uniform and that our leaders will be wise and merciful."

They also cited the biblical example of King Jehoshaphat of Judah in 2 Chronicles 20; Jehoshaphat proclaimed a fast and led his people in prayer when he was confronted with invading forces. Because of these faithful actions, God delivered a victory for Judah’s army without a battle, though they were prepared to fight. The signatories compared Jehoshaphat’s army to the US armed forces. The U.S’s world class military is ready for war, "we remember that prayer is mightier than our armies and that God alone gives the victory or defeat," the letter said.

The signatories included Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries; Jerry Falwell, pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va., and chancellor of Liberty University; D. James Kennedy, senior minister of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Pat Robertson, chief executive officer of the Christian Broadcasting Network; Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan's Purse; Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals; Kenneth Boa, president of Reflections Ministries; Mark Early, president of Prison Fellowship; Richard John Neuhaus, Roman Catholic priest and president of the Institute on Religion and Public Life; Sandy Rios, president of Concerned Women for America; and Joseph Stowell, president of Moody Bible Institute.

Richard Land has been a primary religious defender of the war against Saddam Hussein as a “just war.” He appeared on four public broadcasts debating the seven-point test for just military cause in relation to Hussein’s regime.

By Pauline J.